Bishop Robert C. Molino’s excellent letter about the abuse scandal contains two sentences of particular interest:
Such wickedness should be hated with a perfect hatred. Christian charity itself demands that we should hate wickedness just as we love goodness.
If you are a Christian who finds it upsetting that a church leader would issue a call to hatred, it is only because you have grown far too accustomed to the weak, effeminate form of the faith. We modern Christians tend to believe that hatred is not of God because God is love and hatred is the opposite of love. We are correct on the second part — God is indeed love — but the rest is wildly off base.
Hatred is not love’s opposite. Indifference is love’s opposite. Hatred is a part of love and a sign of its vitality. Hatred is love in its ferocious and militant form. Whether it is a good hatred or a bad hatred depends on what, precisely, it militates against. A hatred that militates against the cancer patient is bad. A hatred that militates against the patient’s cancer is good. Not just acceptable, or admissible, but good. If you love a person, you must hate their cancer. There is no way to love someone while being indifferent, or tolerant, toward the disease that ravages them.
Hatred seeks always to annihilate. So we should not want to rid the world of hatred unless we have rid it of all the things worth annihilating. Unfortunately, we have not accomplished that task and never will. There are many ugly, terrible, deadly, revolting things in our world, and we must have a raw, raging hatred for all of them — especially sin.
The Bible repeatedly speaks of this holy and righteous hatred, and commands us — not merely allows us, but commands us — to have this sort of hatred in our hearts:
Psalm 97: “Let those who love the Lord hate evil.”
Proverbs 8:13: “To fear the Lord is to hate evil.”
Romans 12:19: “Hate what is evil, cling to what is good.”
Proverbs mentions seven things that God Himself hates, and in four places in the Bible (Genesis 4:10, Genesis 17:20, Exodus 2:23, James 5:4) we are told of sins so abominable that they “cry out” to Him for vengeance.
A passage in Revelation is particularly interesting:
I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked people… Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place. But you have this in your favor: You hate the practices of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.
God can find few redeeming qualities in the Church in Ephesus, except for its hatred and intolerance. Those are the two things He cites positively, the two that they need not repent of. What redeeming qualities will He find in the Church in America? We have forsaken both love and hatred. We tolerate wicked people and have little hatred for even the most horrific practices. We seem to think that all of our other sins will be overlooked because at least we are so tolerant, but the opposite is the case. Our tolerance will not compensate for our other sins because our tolerance is one of our greatest sins.
Tolerance is never commanded or even mentioned in the Bible because it is a false virtue. A Christian should be too busy loving and hating to worry about tolerating anything. He should love God and his fellow man and all that is good and holy. He should hate sin, the Devil, and all that is disordered and unholy. He should only “tolerate” that which has no moral substance whatsoever. He should tolerate the color of his neighbor’s car and the shape of his neighbor’s head. But he should hate his neighbor’s wickedness just as he should hate his own wickedness. And the more he loves God, the greater this hatred will be. If he cannot hate wickedness — if he cannot even conceive of hating it — then he is nowhere in the vicinity of loving God.
It will be cautioned that we must always make sure to love the sinner as we hate his sin. This is true, of course. But there usually isn’t a conflict between those two things. We hate a sinner’s sin because we love him and God. If we hate the sinner, then we probably won’t have much urge to hate his sin. We will more likely take pleasure in his sin because it destroys him who we hate. When you really hate someone, you do not feel disappointment or sadness when you hear about the bad things they’ve done. Rather you are amused, even delighted, by it. That’s why people enjoy gossiping about those they dislike.
I think the temptation to hate the sin and the sinner together really only arises when the sin is so monstrous, and our revulsion so intense, that we have trouble separating the two. It is easy to hate white lies yet love the white liar. It is much more difficult to hate the child rape and love the child rapist. The latter sin is of a nature and to a degree that our faculties for reason breakdown and the militant side of love takes over. We want to destroy the sin and everything associated with it because it is so unthinkably grievous. The sinner has descended deep into the darkness and we can barely see him and his humanity down there. In our hatred, we want to toss a grenade into that hole and blow all that is inside it to bits — the sin, the sinner, everything.
We are wrong for this, and we should repent of it. But we should be worried if we do not experience this temptation at all. I suppose it could mean that we are saintly and enlightened. More likely, it means that we are indifferent. And there is nothing more dangerous for a Christian than indifference.